Here we are, the final episode of Season 1 of The Wheel of Time. It’s been an extremely short journey to this point, with almost no time for any of the character development that happens over the much longer duration in the book, but nevertheless, it’s time for the climax of the story! Rand is going to the Eye of the World because that’s where the Dark One is so he can fight the Last Battle, on his own, in book 1 of 14.
As you know from the previous episodes’ articles, basically none of that is true to the book. I had hoped that regardless of how we wound our way to this ending, we’d get something approaching the actual ending, but that was definitely too much to hope for. Let’s dive in.
We open on a scene 3000 years ago with a brutal character assassination of Lews Therin, the original Dragon, continuing the weird agenda of making all men into villains. While something sort of like this happened in the actual history of the world, they’re leaving out SO MUCH information to put it into any kind of context. I’ve gone over this before, but it’s topical to that scene so just to recap:
A female Aes Sedai discovered what looked like a direct source of the One Power that could be used equally by men and women instead of the Saidar/Saidin split that currently existed. The Aes Sedai collectively drilled ‘The Bore’ into the fabric of the pattern to access that power, and oops, it turns out that power was the seal that had been put in place at the moment of creation by the Creator to keep the Dark One locked out of reality. With the Bore drilled, the Dark One was able to act directly on the world, and they started a 100 year skid into war, violence, and chaos.
After a hundred years of this descent, Lews Therin proposed a plan where a group of the most powerful Aes Sedai, men and women, would go to the Bore and link together to seal it up. The woman in this scene, Latra Posae Decume, had an alternate plan which was basically ‘crack out the nukes’ She wanted to use two extremely powerful (like, ludicrously powerful) sa’angreal to unleash massive amounts of the One Power to destroy the armies of Shadowspawn, and put up a big wall around the Bore ‘until they could find a safer way to seal it’.
She then went out and got every other woman powerful enough to help his plan to swear to not help him. All of the most powerful workings of the One Power need men and women together to do them. Women can link with each other up to 13 women. To link more than that you need a man, which ups the number to 26, and so on. Men are also on average stronger overall in the One Power. Lews Therin’s plan could absolutely have worked exactly how he wanted if she had gone along with the plan and a group of men and women together had gone to the Bore.
Instead, she got every woman to refuse to work with him, then they eventually lost the access keys to those super powerful sa’angreal, so her plan could no longer even be attempted. He tried to get his plan together again, and they still refused, so he and the Hundred Companions, all men, went to try and execute his plan on their own.
Even without the MASSIVE increase in power they could have managed if the women had gone along, they did still actually seal up the Bore, if imperfectly. And while the Dark One’s counterattack did taint Saidin like Latra says in the intro here, there’s no real evidence to show that this would have happened if the mixed group had gone.
We close on a gratuitous shot of ‘look how fancy and advanced civilisation was, just to really hammer home that he truly did ‘set them back 1000 years’ leaving out, of course, any of the effects and ravages of 100 years of war and destruction and the influence of the Dark One on the world from the image. His plan would have looked a lot more reasonable if the city outside had been half torn down, and armies were clashing outside the walls, but we’ll just ignore that and make it look like arrogant Lews Therin did an unnecessary thing for his own pride and doomed everybody. Keen.
Let’s also not let it pass that Latra calls him ‘Dragon Reborn’ which…there’s an article coming from me about the philosophy and cosmology of the setting which will go into this in more depth but…outside a few very esoteric philosophers and theologians, Lews Therin was a guy who came to be called ‘The Dragon’ and now Rand is ‘The Dragon Reborn’ and that’s it, two dragons, total ever, the first guy and his soul’s reincarnation.
Anyway, all this and I’m 2:30 into the episode. Deep breaths, lots to go yet.
The episode proper starts with Moiraine and Rand trekking through the Blight which is for whatever reason a super densely packed creepy forest. Granted it looks cool, but the Blight is less …goopy in the book. It’s just a place that looks fairly rotten and gross, except basically every plant and animal is going to kill you. So it’s sort of like Australia. Also digging the ‘touch nothing’ admonishment right before they both just sit down and lean against stuff.
All of the scenes and dialogue around everybody agonising over Rand and Moiraine being gone obviously can’t have happened because in the book they are all travelling to the Eye. The idea that Nynaeve can track Moiraine and Lan can’t is sort of silly but whatever. But they’re also acting like the Eye of the World is a specific fixed place, and if Moiraine knows where it is, so will Lan so her tracking tips aren’t really needed. Meanwhile, in the book, the Eye isn’t in a specific place, it appears ‘at great need’ at the behest of the Green Man, a character that doesn’t appear in this show at all.
We get a fun confrontation with Ba’alzamon (who I don’t think has actually been identified as Ba’alzamon at any point in the show) who is played extremely well by Fares Fares. He’s in the credits here as ‘The Dark One’ but more on that as the episode goes on.
Moiraine gives Rand a sa’angreal which he definitely never gets in the book. He does end up in possession of an angreal which is much weaker, but giving him a sa’angreal at this point would be very impacting on the story moving forward. We also get another another ‘ooh it could have been Egwene’ moment which is like…she’s too young, and also not a man. She was taught to channel because if you don’t teach wilders how to control the power, they mostly die before they figure it out on their own, and she’s extremely powerful. She was never not going to have been taught, or brought to the Tower for training, so there’s no reason to add the implication that Moiraine thought (incorrectly) that Egwene might have been the Dragon Reborn.
Also a weird choice to have Moiraine tell Rand she won’t teach him to channel because every time he channels, he comes closer to the madness from the taint on saidin. She can’t teach him because saidin and saidar are so fundamentally different that literally nothing she has ever learned about channelling is helpful to him. Phrases like ‘it would be like a bird trying to teach a fish to fly’ get uttered by her and others many times on the topic of him learning about channelling from women, but we’re leaving that out too I guess, despite this being nothing but a walk where two characters can exposition at each other.
We’re also making some choices about Min’s viewings here that have consequences. She’s claiming here that everything she sees comes true. This is going to definitely limit the kinds of things the show lets us see her view in the future, because how it is supposed to work is that she sees things, and -if she knows what they mean- they will always come true, but plenty of things she sees, she doesn’t know what they mean. So we’re limited now to only finding out about viewings that are going to happen exactly as she understands them. It’s fine, I’m sure, but a weird choice.
Now the army of trollocs shows up at Tarwin’s Gap unexpectedly, where in the book, they already knew the army was there, and there’s a whole thing about begging Lan and Moiraine to help them, directly contradictory to their interactions with Agelmar in the show.
The gap, for the record, does in fact hold in the book, though it doesn’t here, partly because of their upcoming choice to completely remove Rand’s impact on that battle, instead of being extremely vital to it like he is in the book.
Cue another scene of competent men being incompetent for reasons. Agelmar here basically saying ‘yes I screwed up and am solely responsible for the doom about to befall us’ is just…pointless and unnecessary. They -did- ask for help, they -did- try to rally soldiers from other cities in the Borderlands. There was no refusal from him to contact the Aes Sedai. Given they’re also going to kill him shortly (he doesn’t die in the book) why also make him out to be an asshole for no useful purpose?
His whole admission of culpability here is just completely fabricated. They win at the gap, it doesn’t fall, the city doesn’t burn, none of this is even something they’re especially concerned about, let alone convinced will happen. It feels like this is all just setting up Amalisa’s ‘noble sacrifice’ like she has to die to fix his mistakes, which again…she can’t channel in the book, and they don’t lose the battle. More things that aren’t necessary.
They arrive at the Eye, and Rand asks what it is and Moiraine says she has no idea, and nobody has any idea, that’s also just absolutely not true. In the book she’s been there before, and between her and Loial they know plenty about it. There’s a pool of pure saidin there, created by the combined efforts of female Aes Sedai and enough male Aes Sedai who hadn’t gone insane yet, to be held against the time of humanity’s greatest need. That’s why the Green Man is there to guard it and keep people out who aren’t worthy.
They’ve chosen instead to imply that the Eye of the World is where the Dark One was imprisoned (It’s not here, the Bore is at Shayol Ghul which is nowhere near here, and has a whole population of Trollocs, Fades, other Shadowspawn, enslaved humans, and various Darkfriends living around it. Various characters on the side of evil go there during the books, and it’s not the Eye and by making this be where the Bore is, you lose the ability to have all of those extremely important scenes too.
So from here the goings on at the Eye get interspersed with scenes of the battle at Tarwin’s Gap, so rather than flip back and forth I’ll do one first then the other.
The actual events at the Eye are something like this.
- When they first arrive, there are two of the Forsaken there. Aginor and Balthamel
- Fighting starts, and Balthamal is killing the Green Man
- The Green Man dies, killing Balthamel in the process
- Aginor and Rand are confronting each other, and Aginor starts drawing on the saidin at the Eye. Rand figures out how to also draw from it, and they basically have an internal arms race, which Aginor loses, burning himself out and also dying.
- Rand wishes to be away from there, and channels himself out into the middle of the battle at Tarwin’s Gap.
- Using saidin, he causes huge earthquakes and so on which destroy most of the invading army of Shadowspawn.
- Then he is drawn into this dreamworld we see in the show, and has a confrontation with Ba’alzamon.
So we’ve skipped completely over the appearance, battle with and death of two of the Forsaken, the death of the Green Man, the destruction of the Eye of the World, and Rand single handedly winning most of the battle for Tarwin’s Gap.
Here in the scene with Ba’alzamon, we see him taking the carrot approach to trying to win Rand over. He shows him a happy ideal world and promises that if he turns to the Dark One, this could be a reality for him. In the book, he takes more of a stick approach, showing him images of Egwene, Nynaeve and his mother being tortured, promises that even death doesn’t protect them from the Dark One and that he must kneel or everybody he loves will suffer forever.
This is another choice that I’m just…I don’t know how to feel about it. Rand is presented with a world where Egwene and he have a child named Joiya, and this world is tempting to him because it’s so ideal, but he eventually turns away from it because of some interesting extended philosophical thinking that nothing about his character has indicated he’s especially capable of, vis-a-vis free will.
Why this scene bothers me so much is that presumably next season, we’re going to have Egwene and Nynaeve arrive at the White Tower for training, and Egwene fairly quickly gets to take the test to go from being a Novice to one of the Accepted. The process for this test is for the candidate to go into a ter’angreal, a magic device of large rings like doorways. Inside the rings, they are put into worlds, first regarding their past, then their present, then their future where they are faced with either their greatest fears, or their greatest desires, and in order to pass the test are forced each time to turn away and choose to be Aes Sedai more than anything they’re shown.
Would you care to guess what her first challenge is? You may have realised it’s going to be an image of her, with Rand, and their child, Joiya. By putting this scene in here for Rand it’s going to be pretty silly to just…do it again for Egwene, meaning they’re going to have to come up with some whole other existentially upsetting experience for her or just…skip the whole ‘becoming Accepted’ test process which was some incredible character development for both Egwene and Nynaeve.
In any event, Rand’s going to decide that having this world made for him (despite the fact that Egwene and Baby are right here, obviously ‘functionally real’ and obviously ‘not actually her and their baby’ so why is he assuming anything needs to be done to Egwene to make this a world he can keep living in) is bad because making Egwene be this way (despite the fact that the show has taken great pains to suggest she absolutely really still feels this way, even though in the book she doesn’t) is a violation of her free will. A nice conclusion to come to, and one that is going to possibly feature very large in a couple years when the show finally gets around to ending.
We come out to the Eye to a scene between Moiraine and Ba’alzamon where he channels at her and she reacts like something horrible has been done to her. There’s an implication that she’s now been stilled, and if so, that is going to brutally undercut her character and her storylines going forward. What would make more sense would be just if she were shielded, like the Aes Sedai did to Logain earlier on. She’d know what that’s like, and not have reacted in quite the same way if she’d only been shielded, so at this moment, we really don’t know.
Meanwhile, out at Tarwin’s Gap and Fal Dara, the battle is starting, and they’re letting all the foreigners leave and making every Shienarian stay to ‘defend the city’ something that isn’t remotely necessary in the book. We get some more indications of Amalisa’s impending sacrifice along with some other random women who turn out to be able to channel I guess, despite anybody who can channel and doesn’t completely hide it being sent to the White Tower.
Then we have another extremely perplexing choice of scene. Uno and Yakota crack open the dias under Agelmar’s throne and pull out…The Horn of Valere?! The Horn has been lost for centuries, hunted as treasure for as long, and nobody knows where it is. The idea that not only does Lord Agelmar know it’s under his chair, a bunch of his soldiers do too, and they’re going to just…in case of emergency unearth an immensely powerful relic that has been lost to time? WTF.
The Horn does appear in book 1 though: It’s one of the things that was hidden at / protected by The Eye of the World. Rand and Co recover it after their battles there, and bring it to Fal Dara where it does, as in the show, get stolen by Padan Fain. But considering how few people know the Horn has been found, let alone also taken, sufficient to make Book 2 of the series ‘The Great Hunt’ be literally about a worldwide Hunt for the Horn, having it just be chilling in Fal Dara is so bizarre.
Then comes the setup of the Amalisa sacrifice, where she basically kills two people, herself, and nearly Nynaeve to do the ‘bunch of damage with the Power’ that Rand does in the book. Why they decided they needed both Agelmar and Amalisa to die here I don’t understand, nor the need to have Nynaeve almost die and then be saved by Egwene. It’s important that she only almost died, because if she actually did die, and then Egwene brought her back, that also contradicts one of the core functions of the One Power that it absolutely can’t bring people back from the dead.
Agelmar bites it, and the wall fails, and the army charges out towards the city. They dig out the Horn, describe that it’s for the Last Battle and also somehow that it’s being saved for Rand? Who they…believe is not there, and fighting the Last Battle already. So how exactly is he supposed to use it?
Here comes the pointless deaths of several women for no real plot purpose I can think of besides to take the scene away from Rand. Amalisa can’t channel in the book, so even if this scene were to happen it wouldn’t be her. Between Rand at the Gap and the soldiers holding the wall, even at the two-to-one instead of ten-to-one they started at, they win without the explicit sacrifice of named characters, or the fridging of two women who show up just long enough to have Amalisa burn them out.
Even the sequence they chose to add in here doesn’t make much internal sense. Egwene and Nynaeve are among the most powerful channelers of all time. Of the women, only 6 who appear in the series at all are stronger than Nynaeve and only a few more who are also stronger than Egwene. So there’s basically no way that Amalisa burns out Nynaeve or Egwene before herself. I don’t know if they just wanted to also give Egwene a cool super saiyan moment or something, but she’s also not even particularly good at healing, that’s entirely Nynaeve’s wheel house which made her super saiyan moment in episode 4 at least vaguely in line with her character even if it was totally made up.
The Padan Fain scene here also leaves out so much about his character that it’s hard for the uninitiated to know why he’s even here. In the book, he’s captured trying to sneak into the city, interrogated, and we find out he’s been a Darkfriend for a very long time and has done unspeakably horrible things. They find out he’d been sent specifically by the Dark One to the Two Rivers for the three boys in case one should be the Dragon Reborn.
He’s also supposed to be a lot less sane at this point due to his treatment at the hands of the Dark One, and the whole idea of Light and Dark needing ‘balance’ and that therefore some of the five will turn to shadow is just…also nonsense and not a thing that happens or anybody even thinks will happen in the book. The way they’ve made Mat seem possibly evil in the show is a newly created choice as well.
Circling back to the aftermath of the ‘battle’ between Rand and Ba’Alzamon (who by the way, in the book is not dead here, so I presume is not dead in the show either, even though they strongly imply he is) we have Rand…deciding to just go off on his own and let everybody think he’s dead. This is also completely made up. Early in Book 2 when they leave Fal Dara, Rand leaves with Mat, Perrin and Loial, and a group of Shienarians so I have no idea where he’s going from here on his own.
There’s also a major plot issue here that I mentioned a few episodes ago when Moiraine breaks the connection between Mat and the dagger from Shadar Logoth. In the book, the best she can do is sort of keep him topped up on healing and minimise the damage from it, but is nowhere near powerful enough alone to sever the connection. Early in Book 2 (it doesn’t happen in book 1) Padan Fain is broken out of prison and runs off with both the Horn -and- Mat’s dagger and the fact that the dagger is gone means both that they can’t sever Mat’s connection to it, and that basically, if they don’t recover it, and fast, Mat is going to die.
The tension of chasing after Padan Fain to save Mat is a primary driver of the events of Book 2, and instead we have no Mat at all, no dagger at all, and no connection between them either. Fain’s got the Horn, which is bad, and it makes sense to chase after him generally, but especially since they’ve just made the Horn be something Agelmar and his buddies had stashed under the chair, there’s no especially compelling reason for Rand and Co to be the ones to go after him. The necessity for Mat to be part of the group, and therefore going with Rand and Perrin is important to a number of significant events in the next book or two and none of that will make sense anymore.
The final scene at the Eye is Lan finding Moiraine who basically finagles her way into implying Rand died without lying, and they once again suggest Moiraine’s been stilled, which doesn’t make a lot of sense both because she’s needed in future books, and because the nature of the Warder bond shouldn’t allow her to have been stilled without him knowing. It’s strongly implied though not explicitly stated, that being stilled either terminates or at least suppresses the warder bond, whereas here Lan seems to be saying he’s still Bonded, but she now can’t unmask the bond. Likewise to her being stilled, her and Lan being functionally no longer Aes Sedai and Warder has significant effects on future story.
She picks up a chunk of the floor, introduces the concept of cuendillar for the first time and for ten seconds, and the fact that the floor was presumably made out of it and now is broken is somehow supposed to be proof that this wasn’t the last battle, but ‘only the first’ which…okay so. A thing that was there at the Eye in the book was one of the seals or at least like…a physical manifestation of one of the seals that was placed on the Dark One’s prison by Lews Therin. They are indeed cuendillar, and are indeed that yin/yang symbol that represents the ancient Aes Sedai. And the one they find at the Eye is even broken, they’re just also like…small enough to carry around. Tracking down and trying to protect those seals is also a major plot element going forward, except this one is just giant, built into the floor, and since they’ve made The Eye be where The Bore is, there’s an implication that this is THE SEAL on the prison not just one of them, which will also undercut the whole idea that ‘if all of the seals fail, that’s when the Dark One gets out, and we have the actual Last Battle.’
And last, a nice teaser for season 2, it’s The Seanchan! Terrifying invasion from giant ships and creepy women who can channel! This is…not how ‘The Return’ starts in the book, and the way they’ve shown us the damane (the women in grey doing the channelling) and the sul’dam (the women behind them who like…ordered them to do it) raises a lot of questions for me about how some events are going to go in the next couple books, but I think that’s another article in itself too.
For now I shall finally put Season 1 to bed, and other than maybe some reflections on how the changes in this season are going to cascade forward into The Great Hunt, book 2 of the series, I can turn my attention back to the series itself. I hope this was at least a little interesting whether you’ve read the books or not, I certainly dedicated enough words to it. But in any event, as you’ve seen there are some deeply fundamental changes to the plot of the source material, much more in my view, than almost any other book to tv/movie conversion since Starship Troopers, and you can expect a similar article series for Season 2 when it eventually airs. So until then, peace be upon your sword, and may the last embrace of the mother welcome you home.
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